Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
What were the most memorable moments from the past year in Maryland athletics?
It was November, and Maryland was announcing officially that it was joining the Big Ten.
I wish I could have known what all the coaches were thinking. Sure, they backed the decision to leave the Atlantic Coast Conference. But the coaches -- some more than others -- must also have been thinking that the ground was shifting beneath their feet. So much of Maryland’s identity was tied for so many years to the ACC. Your conference affiliation influences how -- and who -- you recruit. The coaches surely understand the financial motivation for the switch. But their worlds were changing, and I couldn’t help but think about the transitions that they will face heading into the new league.
No. 2: It was Oct. 20 and Brad Craddock’s 33-yard field goal attempt sailed high into the air. For a fleeting moment, it appeared Maryland was somehow going to survive losing its starting quarterback -- it lost four during the season -- and delight a homecoming crowd by beating N.C. State and remaining unbeaten in ACC play.
But in a game full of odd twists and hard hits, the cruelest hit of all for Maryland may have been when Craddock's attempt slammed into the left upright in the final seconds to preserve the Wolfpack’s 20-18 victory.
A Maryland win would have moved the Terps to within one victory of bowl eligibility with five games remaining.
But Maryland lost the rest of its games. Somehow, Craddock’s kick -- it was so close to squeezing between the uprights -- stuck with me.
No. 3: Maryland’s men’s basketball team missed the NCAA and NIT tournaments last season. Perhaps that’s why my third Maryland moment was the three-point loss to Kentucky in this season’s opener on Nov. 9 at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Sure, it was just an early-season nonconference game. Kentucky hasn’t turned out to be as good (yet) as pundits imagined.
But it felt important. Perhaps that's because it was played against a good team at a neutral site, lending it a postseason aura.
It was also a game notable for its talent -- a large contingent of NBA scouts were on hand. The game marked the debut of Maryland’s highly touted freshman class.
But I’ll also remember it for the fans. It was a loud, fun, raucous sellout crowd of Terps and Wildcat fans celebrating the beginning of a new season full of promise.
Don Markus: There haven't been too many memorable moments for either the football or men's basketball teams at Maryland in the past year, but the one that stands out to me happened at Comcast Center on Jan. 25, before the Terps were scheduled to play Duke.
It was the night the court was named for former coach Gary Williams.
The decision to name the court after Williams was then, and remains, a controversial one in the eyes (and more importantly the hearts) of many Maryland fans, especially those with an allegiance to Lefty Driesell. Initially, I was among those who believed the court should have been named in honor of both former coaches.
My opinion changed that night, the moment I saw Williams walk onto the floor in that brisk, slightly-hunched, tip-toed gait of his and give one last trademark fist pump to the adoring crowd.
Comcast Center was Garyland once again.
Had a similar honor been bestowed on Lefty years ago at Cole Field House after Driesell was forced out of College Park -- and before the court at Georgia State was named in his honor -- I would have thought the same thing. I am not sure why it didn't happen, though Driesell was honored by former athletic director Debbie Yow with a short but touching ceremony.
Just as Driesell brought Maryland to national prominence, though not quite turning the Terps into the "UCLA of the East" as he had promised, Williams took Maryland to its greatest heights with a national championship in 2002, a year after reaching the Final Four for the first time in school history.
Court-namings typically don't have the same type of energy as big wins, but this one did. And in a year when neither the football or men's basketball team had many memorable games, this one stands out to me.
Matt Bracken: The first 23 years of my life were spent in three Big Ten cities -- East Lansing, Ann Arbor and Evanston. Starting in July 2014, I will be living in Big Ten country once again. Throughout a newsworthy year in College Park that saw Mark Turgeon tantalize Terps fans with hopes of eventual national championship contention, and Randy Edsall feel the wrath of quarterback-hating gods, Maryland's move from the ACC to the Big Ten stands out as a clear No. 1 when it comes to memorable 2012 moments.
It's difficult to picture Maryland battling blizzards en route to mid-week basketball games at Iowa or Nebraska or Wisconsin. And it's hard to describe how surreal it was that November weekend leading up to Maryland's official Big Ten announcement, getting texts from friends in Baltimore asking if I was excited to see Michigan invade Byrd Stadium. For selfish reasons, I'm excited about the prospect of watching my alma mater come to College Park every year. I think Maryland fans will come to appreciate the benefits of UM's new conference -- provided the Big Ten Network doesn't greenlight "Big Ten Icons: Juan Dixon" or something similarly ridiculous.
Aside from that drastic change in athletic culture for Maryland, the other most memorable series of moments for me this year are the ones mentioned above. Turgeon proved in 2011 that his recruiting was going to be quite a bit different than his predecessor's. In 2012, the second-year coach showed that he'd back down from nobody in recruiting (i.e. hanging with John Calipari until the very end for the Harrison twins) and that he'd never rest in remaking his roster. Just think about the players Turgeon added between Jan. 1, 2012 and the start of the 2012-13 season: Charles Mitchell. Evan Smotrycz. Logan Aronhalt. Dez Wells. Turgeon also spent the past 11-plus months beating out basketball blue bloods like Kansas and UCLA for Roddy Peters, unearthing a totally off-the-radar gem in Damonte Dodd, and landing a rising combo guard star in Melo Trimble early in the process. When it comes to recruiting, complacency does not appear to be a word in Turgeon's vocabulary.
And then there's poor Randy Edsall, who really seemed to be turning a corner on the heels of a disastrous 2011 season. Signing Day 2012 was a major victory for the Terps, and a bowl game really did seem within reach heading into the fall. But then C.J. Brown tore his ACL. And then Perry Hills, Devin Burns and Caleb Rowe suffered season-ending injuries of their own. I'm no college football historian, but I find it hard to believe any program has endured such horrible luck over the course of one season (and that's not even taking into account injuries to Andre Monroe, Nick Ferrara, Demetrius Hartsfield and several others). Edsall can ring in the New Year thinking of this silver lining: the worst simply has to be behind him.
Optimism reigns throughout sports heading into almost every new year. But with the Maryland men's basketball and football teams, feeling that way -- for the first time in a long time -- seems totally warranted.
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